Stop Giving Diet Culture a Platform

When this kind of ineffectual, diet culture nonsense gets such a big platform, it’s enraging. For those of you who don’t click the link, it’s an article in Newsweek called, “I Did a Five-Day Water Fast, the Results Were Incredible” by Emma Roberts. She’s a TikTok influencer who describes herself as a “health coach focused on holistic nutrition.” Now, Roberts is obviously free to do whatever she wants to her own body, but she has over 37,000 40,000 followers on TikTok and is angling for more.* She’s a socially attractive blonde who shows her face in every video and has positioned herself as an expert on fasting and bloating. Both topics are especially popular in the white wellness realm. Plus, she’s capitalizing by selling supplements. SURPRISE!

Newsweek should’ve titled this, “I Literally Opted to Experience Starvation in the Name of Health, and Now I’m Gonna Claim to Feel Amazing, So I Can Con You into It Too!” I guess that doesn’t roll or sell as well.

Let me break down why this article is a perfect amalgamation of all the things wrong with diet culture.

5 Reasons Why This Diet Culture Article Is Harmful

  1. Diet culture recommends starvation
    • Consuming only water for five days is starvation. It’s why I always cringe when I see any article promoting fasting. Fasting is not a diet. It’s starvation.
    • In the article, she says of her starvation, “I’m now recommending it to anyone who is medically able.”
    • Newsweek tagged this article as “diet” and “heath.” That means Newsweek is passing off starvation as recommended health advice.
    • She says her motivation was “autophagy,” which she defines as “the bodily process of removing bad cells and replacing them with healthy new ones—and ramp up the production of human growth hormone, which helps to repair damaged muscle tissue.” Meanwhile, the National Cancer Institute defines it as, “A process by which a cell breaks down and destroys old, damaged, or abnormal proteins and other substances in its cytoplasm (the fluid inside a cell). The breakdown products are then recycled for important cell functions, especially during periods of stress or starvation.” [Emphasis mine.]
  2. Diet culture reeks of privilege and white supremacy
  3. Diet culture lies about its role in perpetuating weight stigma
    • She claims, “My primary reason for doing the fast wasn’t weight loss.” This is an important statement to gain traction on social media, which is slowly rejecting weight stigma. However, she follows with two statements showing weight loss was still important:
      • “Another benefit was that my gut completely reset itself, to the point where after my five-day water fast I had a flat stomach [ . . . ]”
      • “I lost body fat, I felt really toned.”
    • If she did her own research, then that research had weight loss information all over it. Try doing a search for “fasting” and tell me weight loss isn’t a constant message.
  4. Diet culture relies on false credibility
    • Roberts repeats the “I did my own research” claim three times. In an 800-word piece, that’s obviously an important message. Saying “I did my own research” is a handy sound bite that supposedly conveys critical thinking and intelligence. Mind you, we never learn what her sources were, so whatever credibility she thinks she’s gaining is meaningless.
    • She buries information she calls “really important.” What information is that? Easing back into eating. Yet it’s not so important as to repeat or mention earlier.
    • Six paragraphs in she clarifies that she’s “not a medical doctor.” Roberts wants readers to research on their own, THEN talk to a “medical professional.” This is suspicious wording. I once encountered a woman who dubbed herself a “leading Clinical Nutrition and Holistic Medicine professional.” This woman was an anti-vaxxer, a Trump supporter, and the owner of a health food restaurant. The semantics here are purposeful. Folks in a lot of the wellness industry (especially those with white supremacy leanings) are careful not to call themselves doctors, but they get as close as they can in the hopes that no one will notice the difference.
  5. Diet culture relies on broad claims for mass appeal
    • How many people can relate to this statement: “If you are in a stage of life where you’re feeling stuck or unsure; where you don’t feel good in your body, maybe you’re having skin or gut issues; and you just feel kind of generally bogged down [ . . .]”? Doesn’t that apply to everyone? So even though this isn’t for everyone, this diet/starvation/fasting is for everyone!
    • Who wouldn’t want this: “I’d heard amazing things about the spiritual experiences and mental clarity that people have received from doing a fast.” Yeah, I imagine you’d have “spiritual experiences” galore if you were starving. If I’m not mistaken, those are called “hallucinations.” All joking aside, I don’t know what “amazing things” constitutes, and if that’s a main reason for why she did this, I think I’d like more information before trying it.
    • At this point, I can’t analyze this piece without joking: “On day three, after about 72 hours without food, I had this massive mental breakthrough. And it happened right after I was feeling my worst. It was like I had this sudden shift that made me rethink my entire life.” Babe. Hon. Doll. Your body was dying. I think it’s safe to say you can’t trust anything your brain tells you when it’s like, “FUCK! WE’RE GONNA DIE IF WE DON’T EAT.” Your body can’t tell a fast from starvation. There’s nothing special happening here other than good ol’ hunger.

If you didn’t want to throw your phone into the lake after all that, she finishes her so-called fast with broth, avocado, and berries. Maybe she had to submit the piece before she devoured an entire sheet cake.

I guess the good news is the folks in the comments called out this article for what it was.

* The bad news is she gained 3,000 followers after this article was published.

Why did I go through this much effort to pick apart one article by one influencer? Because once you see this pattern in even one piece, you’ll see it in all the weight-loss wellness pieces. The whole premise is to lie and manipulate to sell a harmful, unachievable beauty standard with shitty information and probably harmful supplements.

Personally, I question if she even did this fast. I suspect this is simply using diet culture to make money by preying on people desperate to be thin. And that is the biggest suckage of them all.

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